A Supposedly Straight Woman’s Process for Grieving after Orlando

My name is Jessica. I recently graduate with my doctoral degree so, in some spaces it is also likely that I am referred to as Doctor Williams. I am 5’9″ with an undercut and kinky, curly natural Black hair atop my head. I weigh somewhere between 250-350 lbs at any given time depending on what is going on in my life but I always identify as fat. Today my shirt is a “Large” and my skirt is a size 18. My preferred gender pronouns are she/her and I consider myself heterosexual, though my affect and affinity for the Queer community has made me curious about how much of my sexual identity as heterosexual is socially constructed. I am a feminist who believes that people have the right to define themselves for themselves. I identify as Christian, though feel my union with God to be unable to be contained within one religion. I see religion as sociocultural and not necessarily indicative of one’s faith beliefs. I grew up in a middle class, though some argue upper middle class home in Atlanta, Georgia a majority minority city and later Douglasville, GA a middle class suburb of the city. I have minimal physical ability barriers, but am currently managing PTSD and an anxiety disorder stemming from sexual assault. I would describe myself as a beautiful mess.

Fresh off the high of learning my dissertation had been published the mass shooting at PULSE nightclub in Orlando, FL happened. It knocked the wind out of me. First because my younger cousin who identifies as lesbian had snap videos in the club in Orlando the night of the shooting. I reached out to her immediately after finding out about the tragic incident yet once I learned of her physical safety, the sense of comfort did not come. Days later I would find myself in a lesbian bar celebrating a friend’s birthday. A place I’d frequented for various reasons over the past few years in San Diego now had a coldness to it that had nothing to do with the temperature. The mood of the space–set by the additional security  and rainbow flags at half mast–had shifted.

“I’m sorry I haven’t said anything about Orlando to you,” I found myself texting to a dear friend of mine who both identifies as Queer and manages an LGBT resource center at a university, “I honestly did not have the words.” My research conducted on fat women and identity highlighted the kinship between the Fat and Queer communities. In my dissertation I wrote:

Borrowing on the popular “We’re here, we’re queer!” mantra of the gay rights
movement, Fat activist Katie LeBesco (2004) recalls chants of ‘We’re here, we’re
sphere!’ from the fat community. LeBesco details Pam Hinden’s “fat coming out story” noting that “coming out” as fat was akin to “coming out” as queer in that it meant that one was going to intentionally and unapologetically forego traditional social norms; “coming out meant mustering outrage to engage in activities usually thought proper only for thin people (Lebesco, 2004, pg. 95)…”Queer language such as
“outing” or being “in the closet” further illustrated the bond between these two
marginalized communities. Says Margaret Wann (1999) on her last day “in the closet”, “living in the closet [was] not working…[I] decided to come out as a fat person and tried to do it really publicly and really loudly because [I] wasn’t going to put up with exclusion” (pg.95). In this instance “coming out” was strategic to indicate one’s acceptance of self be it our sexuality or our bodies. While it may seem paradoxical as a person is conspicuously fat where queer may be harder to visually assume, the idea of “coming out” refers to an individual proclaiming an internal truth to an external audience. Being “here and queer” or “here and sphere” was less about queer or sphere but in fact, it was about “here” and the acknowledgement of one’s self which in turn calls for acknowledgement by others.

marsha-p-johnson1If it were not for the research I had quite literally just completed, I am not sure I would have felt like this tragedy was mine to own and ache for, like this was a hurt that I had the right to publicly express. However, my connection to this community, my community was undeniable. I look at a leader like Marsha P. Johnson who just went out to dance and ended up making history at the Stonewall Inn. PULSE nightclub could have been any night club in any city at any time and that is what chills me to my core. As a woman, going out requires careful calculation. My heels must be high enough to make my legs look good but not too high that I could not run at the end of the night. My dress should be short enough to move in but long enough to make it clear that I am not public property or for public consumption. The flowers in my hair invite conversation, even adoration but not objectification. The love made between me and the music is our own and sometimes it is a threesome with a man of my desire, but sometimes it is not.  Nearly every woman, and every single fat woman I know frequents “gay bars” because it is a space where we, too, feel free.  The space was not created for us, the space is not ours, but yet we are welcomed and accepted in this space.

For someone to violate such a sacred space…it’s the chill. It’s the kind of cold you feel after trauma that requires swaddling and circles rubbed across the entirety of your back. It is the hurt that you cannot put words to and you cannot describe to anyone who has not also felt this sort of violation. I shared with a Lesbian friend of mine that it felt like rape all over again in some ways. The feelings of confusion, helplessness, loss of safety, loss of comfort, need for closeness with your community and also a fear and hesitancy to put yourself out there again for fear of repeat violation. You try to make sense of the hurt, try to understand why and not one single explanation makes sense.  All you know is that it happened and now having lived through it, you are different and everything you knew before you know now in a different way. You become more attuned to shadows. You grow more suspicious, more cautious, more timid, more “safe” and you try your best not to close off from the whole world. Only that does not help either. It only leaves you alone with your pain to fester and rot. God damn this curse of survival, I do not want the memories, I do not want the pain, I do not want the scars, the tears, the flashbacks, the loss, the confusion, the sadness, the worry.

Then you remember something. For me it was Marsha and it was Audre my two heroines who, in my mind, could just as easily beat a face, speak in couplets, as they could fuck up systematic oppression. I remember them and I said to myself, No one is going to ask you if you’re gay in a nightclub if they are coming to shoot. You cannot escape the pains of the queer community through semantics and uncertainties, this is your fight because otherwise you are turning your back on an entire population that has opened their arms to you, loved you when you did not know how to love yourself, shown you the importance of self acceptance and self expression, given you the freedom to express your impulses and explore your inklings and held you in a way that only someone who has been there can hold you. I not only gave myself permission to fully grieve Orlando, but I made myself accountable to action to respond to the needs of those affected by Orlando–not just now, but always.

This year, San Diego Pride will mean something much different to me. Being in attendance will not be just dancing and drinking in lavish and colorful outfits. It will not be just a celebration of love and acceptance, I imagine it will also be very emotional. Cathartic. It will terrify me to be in a crowd knowing that at any moment someone could inflict pain on myself or others around me for reasons that will never make sense. However, there really is not an option to not go, to not participate and to slip quietly into the “safety” of supposedly “straight” clubs. The first pride was a riot; says Michael Fader,

Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back [after the Stonewall riots]. It was like the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us…. All kinds of people, all different reasons, but mostly it was total outrage, anger, sorrow, everything combined, and everything just kind of ran its course. It was the police who were doing most of the destruction. We were really trying to get back in and break free. And we felt that we had freedom at last, or freedom to at least show that we demanded freedom. We weren’t going to be walking meekly in the night and letting them shove us around—it’s like standing your ground for the first time and in a really strong way, and that’s what caught the police by surprise. There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we’re going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren’t going to go away. And we didn’t.

And we won’t.

Can I get a witness?

There is a fear that I need to acknowledge. It is that as a decidedly single woman, I house within me the fear that I will always be single. There will be no witness to my life. There will be no audience to my triumphs nor safety in my trials. My oneness though elective it may have once been will become a choice I didn’t choose. Yet cannot undo.

After a while you can’t help but wonder, “is it me?” And after a while longer you have all but convinced yourself that it must be. There is no other reasonably logical explanation. I ask myself, “where is my lesson in this?” I dug for lessons for six months in silence while holding pieces of a broken heart in my other hand. I could just…I could breath through this hurt God if you just show me where’s the purpose in my pain? Give me a hint.

I would sit still and listen for my gut. Nothing. And another night I would fall asleep and wake up confused in my bed but somehow smelling him. Back there. And I would cry. I cried so much in that loneliness, that quiet, that yearning for the lesson that I cried myself numb. Scabbed over and thickened it took that much more effort to feel anything.

I just want to feel wanted. I remember thinking. Desirable. Dancing around the one word I was afraid to crave: loved. Love-ing had gotten me nowhere. Trusting in love had gotten my heart broken. And here we were the day before Valentine’s Day and me in red, out of breath in a shopping mall because he robbed me yet again. And again. And again.

Leaving, I told myself, was the best idea for both of you. Only on every lonely night I have to wonder if it’s true. Was there one, a someone I overlooked? Did I miss them? Did I miss love? Can I call it back? I need someone to care how my day went. I need someone to rub my back when I feel like crying. I need someone to turn off the lights with at night. I need someone who’s laugh is the third to my fifth. I need to be held. To be cherished. To be listened to. To be made love to. Don’t I deserve that?

Silence always makes me question it. What I deserve. Because when someone doesn’t even care enough to say goodbye or fuck off or anything? You feel insignificant. Maybe silence always hurt but it certainly does now, after. His silence was deafening and in it I filled the space with every negative thought one could think. I became the woman who could be walked away from. I lived up to unworthy.

So the silence from today triggered me. Caused me to have to acknowledge my fear. My fear that even though on most days I don’t believe it, that somewhere inside me lives the belief that I will never feel…

I can’t even write the words. Through my own tears. I know that happiness is my own work, I know. But I can’t love in a vacuum right? Will friendship be enough? Will my work? I need something that loves me back.

It is at precisely this point that I find myself dangerously close to negotiating. Deciding the things I wanted and needed in a partner were ready for mediation with the universe. Only that’s not right either. But how long? How long does one sustain and persist through the lonely before you set up permanent residence in solitude?

I don’t want to hear about timing. Or trusting. Or plans and purpose. I would just really like to feel loved again.

What it Means to Love Yourself

“Are you going to let the shame of imperfection keep you quiet or in your shoes?”

It was the thought I just had about two separate yet connected occurrences. I was taking part in a drum circle and we were told to keep a steady hushed beat. Stepping in for solos when and if we felt compelled. I noticed myself wanting to sing. Then wanting to drum loudly and with a specific rhythm I was feeling in my body. For a long time I did neither. Not until I closed my eyes and erased everyone else in the room. Focusing on my own sound, my own rhythm. Then I struck out on my solo. Well…except I noticed I partly interrupted someone else. They bowed out and I kept going until the end. It felt so good to keep my own pace that I decided not to go back to the original beat so I didn’t. Attempting to make sense of it in relationship to my being, I became curious about my own propensities towards perfection. I didn’t think I had one. And it’s not exactly perfection, if we are calling a thing a thing, it is not that I need to be perfect. It is more that there is a specific way in which I wish to be seen. Flawed, but in this way (not that). Competent, but in this way (not that).
-1Which brings up the point about shoes. I was sitting out and enjoying a sunset reflecting on my day and how I felt. And I wanted to take my shoes off–as I often do whenever I am not in motion. But I did not. Why? My skin was ashen from the dry desert climate my toes were unpolished as my work schedule the past few days had prevented me from getting a pedicure. And so I asked myself the opening question. Was I REALLY going to let unpolished toes and an improv solo keep me from fully experiencing the moment as my body was asking to experience it? I took my shoes off. And I put my feet up and I began this post.
This time I caught myself. And I suppose I can take small comfort in my knowing that I was able to call attention to my own behavior. Modify it and engage myself in critical inquiry. However, how many opportunities have I missed? How much of my life have I allowed to be governed by how I think I’m going to look to other people?
-1Liz Gilbert posted a picture on Instagram that made me chuckle and then made me pause and really think. The caption alluded to the fact that sometimes in order to do great things you really DO have to not give a fuck. You have to let go. Not only of what other people might do or say as a result of your actions (aha!) but also the judgment you place on yourself which honestly are probably ten times worse than the things others say. We can be our own worst critics. Yet we also have the power to be our own biggest advocates.
I want to become a better advocate for myself. I want to assure myself that it is okay to try and it is okay to fail. Isn’t that what my last post was about? Because you learn. And at least you tried for something. Having your heart broken is nothing to be ashamed of, it means you had the courage to surrender your heart in the first place. This is what Jeannie meant when she told me the key to life. Be present. Tell the truth. Let go of the consequences of telling the truth. It wasn’t just a telling of truth she was speaking to. It is also a living of truth. I have to let go of the consequences of living my truth. That rocked my whole body to type that sentence. Again.
That sort of unbridled affirmation, the lack of judgment, that freedom, the forgiveness for who I am not and the acceptance of who and what I am? That’s love. That is what happens when I love myself. I feel as though I just got it. It just clicked. That. Jessica, is what it means to love yourself.

The man who would not be forgotten

I have learned by now that when things do not go away, when they permeate your daydreams and night dreams, when your mind wanders aimlessly to their vicinity, when your heart reaches out to be nearer to it, that you should pay attention. Take seriously your pleasures! I’ve been heard proclaiming the sentiment. Thinking mostly of long forgotten passions, dormant creativity or hidden talents we do not indulge for fear of judgment ridicule or rejection. We mark them as “silly” and pack them away in the box of forgotten things in the room of no return and allow them to collect dust, when that is not their rightful place. But something has told us they are trivial, not worth pursuit, and to put them away. The childish things. However, what if it’s not a thing?

I had, what could be categorized as a one-night-stand for all intents and purposes. He was in town on business. He asked me out for drinks. Then dinner. I obliged. We spent the third night together and in the morning he boarded a flight back home and he was supposed to disappear into the queue of expired desires. Only he did not, has not. He’s lingered and my thoughts race to him as though he was the finish line.

Since the initial meeting, he’s been back to visit. He calls. He texts. He says “good morning beautiful” because he knows I like that sort of thing. He got a promotion and warned me I’d hate it because he would be less available. I thought it was a good sign he even considered me, though I would not allow myself to feel joyous about it–I,instead, made it mean nothing and tried not to care. It did not work.

After his last visit I stopped dating other men. Before I knew it two months had gone by and all I wanted was him. I told him, in much fewer words. Hoping to guise my covets in simple language with no seasoning. He saw through me and devoured the idea. “Can I come to you in November?” “Can you come any sooner?” Scheduling conflicts. More travel. More responsibility. More considerations of the man who was supposed to last only as long as his business trip.

Waking up at 3 am with tears in my eyes, I wondered what I was dreaming about. As I reached for my phone to check the time a message from him comes through, “Good morning beautiful”. I smiled with my liver. He lights me up.

Instantly I recalled our last being together. I’d just washed my sheets. Just like tonight. I’d just cleaned my room and made things just so for his arrival. I’d waited and anticipated. I’d sat nervously at work unable to concentrate on a single thing for wishing he were here already. And when he did come, standing on my tip-toes to kiss him. The breadth and narrowing in his back from years of basketball that fit my hands just perfectly. His asking if I missed him. His knowing of that answer. The tour of my condo he asked for but did not want. The noticing of my vision board and the thoughtful inquisition of the abstract wishes. The eye lashes. The hands. The smile. The laugh. The heavy New York accent I’d misplaced behind the Boston nickname and the hat he kissed me beneath like mistletoe.

He was my thing. My thing I tried to box up but would not stay hidden. Tucked away. Forgotten. I wanted this man and more than that, I wanted him to want me in equal (okay, slightly more than equal) measure.

Unsure of what future or what possibilities lie in keeping him, I ignore what could be all together. Settling for and nestling into the right now of him. The immediate presence of delight and joy which fills me at thought of him. That’s enough isn’t it? To simply know the right now. To lay your head on the chest of what is and drift off into all the nows you can inhale which are scented with his cologne. Today it will be enough that in this moment he is my wish. And I cannot think a second beyond it.

Fear and Freedom

I haven’t written. Correction, I haven’t published anything, because I write everyday. I started posts a million times, one about judgment, one about abandonment, one about love, one about running…I started them and while I completed the sentiment I left the posts unwritten. Nothing moved me until this moment, and even as I type I am unsure of what is going to arrive in only a few sentences into the future.

I have really been present lately. I have been able to take in the moments as they are happening and appreciate them I was home last week and I remember being both in the room and over the room watching what was happening. I saw everyone but straight to the insides of them, their energy. I thought, “Wow…what if I stayed here? What if I lived here?” Then I left. straight back into my own body to continue living.

JW also made me realize something…I wrote to her: when you touch someone physically, you exchange energy and I guess I don’t like hugging just anyone because they might leave and then I am left with pieces of them, and simultaneously me with them.” I caught myself…they might leave. How much of what you do is based on this fear of abandonment?

I have been wondering lately, asking myself, “What part of you is left unhealed?” I am not sure where that question was born within me, but it has been here on the tip of my tongue…in the forefront of my thinking. Connection. How do you love fully if you live in fear that the things or people you love will leave? It becomes a desperate love. A love that shackles. It becomes some alternate form of love, like the bad Ariel that was really Ursula the sea witch in disguise. Or the Alice just behind the glass.

And I believe that my weight, my physical body began as a way to fill the void of loss and to perhaps even be a barrier between. But the thing is, I (the real inner, energetic me) is here to connect. And so I do it despite myself. When I made the decision to connect, I did. To two people who were already close to me, but in what felt like a different and more meaningful way.

I went back to read the post I wrote about meeting the Dalai Lama. The day I was caught up in the “things” and in the past and was unable to see the magnitude of my present. Then I think about that day in my grandmothers living room when I saw, fully, what was happening, who was present. In just over a year I am able to go back to this monumental day and now say, with a joyous weeping soul, Thank You.

Is there anything wrong with the girl who is alone? That is the big question I had to answer. Is she bad? Is she undesirable? Is she unattractive? Is she foul? I believed all of those things. The girl who was left was broken in some way, and when I was left, I became her. I had to reconcile not only my not being this being, but that girl not being any of the things I thought she was. We take patterns and we assign meaning to them. I had to give my patterns different meanings. Ones that did not mar my Self. Ones that did not leave me shackled. In short, I had to really love. Without condition, without pretense or precedence.

That meant not being afraid of failure. Not being afraid of judgment. Not being afraid of making mistakes, or not meeting expectations. Not being accepted, or praised. I had to become very much “okay” with being alone and still in love. And once I did I realized that I am never alone. I am connected to God. I am connected to those that love me, I am connected to those that don’t. But it took all that. And now, I do believe I am ready to fly. To speak a little more freely, clearly, loudly. To love a little bit more openly, honestly, authentically. And to do both even when it terrifies me. Even when I feel the consequence will leave me alone, especially when it feels that way. Because it never does.

The thing I think I carry with me above all things is this notion that the ego is always conspiring for safety and the Self is always conspiring for freedom. Sometimes those things align, and sometimes those things repel. And when they repel, as they often can in love and in career or anything that requires risk, trust, faith…I want to lean into freedom and leave the issue of my safety to God.

Fat is the new Black

Once upon a time arguably one of the worst yet socially acceptable things I could have been called was the nword. Then of course, if I were a lesbian I would have been a dyke. That was the worst. But now that we’re an evolved, post-racial love is love America (tongue firmly in cheek), fat has become the new Black.

Jess sent me an article about the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch who said that his brand caters to the “All-American” cool and beautiful. After I read the article I was filled with a lot of emotions but mostly sadness. Sadness that this is in any way acceptable and honestly sad that someone hates themselves that much they’re emoting that much hate into the world. So after I sent him some love…I had my own epiphany. That I’m just like him.


One of my favorite quotes to re-tweet comes from my friend La. She’s such a feminist. And I never really considered myself to be, but this is one of those quotes that continually hits home. And while the A&F CEO said it very candidly, privately, I reserve “joy” and “love” and “happiness” and “beauty” to a specific demographic as well. But I don’t blame men. Or women. Or any One in particular, its shared.  After reading the article I thought about La’s quote and then I thought about fat brides. Its no secret that I have this irrational contempt for so-called fat brides. I guess in my head for the most perfect day a woman should look her most dazzling and that includes being thin.

What I was failing to realize was that I was imposing unfair, unjust, and horribly judgmental expectations on other women and on myself. This dissonance in The Bride and the overweight woman sounded like an out of tune piano or an amateur cellist. I couldn’t reconcile the two ideals because I in my mind perfect never ever could be anything other than thin. Fit. “Healthy” whatever term most appropriate to describe this woman in my head.

In my defense of all those above a size 10 standing outside the A&F target demographic I found myself also in defense of me. I can’t quite explain it…but it was like I gave myself permission to change the rules and live my own way. I thought back on enduring (very minimal) teasing in middle school about my weight, yet still managing to persevere through it. Same for high school.


So I googled ‘plus size bridal’ and came across a photo. A photo of a woman I don’t think is fat at all. In a dress that flatters her figure. And I imagine women walking down the aisle towards the women or men they love in this dress and feeling love. Not fat. I decided then that these gross thoughts of body ideals were no longer welcome and that in life I would focus my attention to experience rather than how the snapshot of it looks. And I would examine my own insecurities before I jumped to judge anyone else. Its weird that such a lover of love would get caught up in the aesthetics of a “wedding day” over the emotional and spiritual significance. But I think for me so often feeling and being (physically) manifest in tandem. My issue was that the picture I had for happy, as in the type of overflowing happiness found within the container of a wedding dress on a wedding day, was trapped in a size 6.

What a shift. Subtle, but huge in me. And I apologize. To other women, to myself…for judging. For placing limits and conditions on beauty. For restricting joy. For filling the word ‘fat’ with my own loathing and discomfort and thinking it acceptable as a label whether I said it aloud or not.

I recognize that until we as a society turn inward and begin to sort through our own shit, someone is always going to be the nigger. The fag. The fat. There will always be a target whom we will aim our self-hatred at. I, personally want to break the cycle for me. And as always the work boils down to love, and forgiveness which I think is the act of truly loving. 

Everything under the sun

I have a month almost exactly before I board a flight to Jamaica. I set the goal to lose 20lbs before takeoff like a week and a half ago. I have no clue how much weight I’ve lost because I don’t own a scale nor do I desire to…but I bought a pair of jeans a size down from what I normally need. Typically, I am an 18 (in jeans)…but Old Navy recently did some funky stuff with sizing so I was actually a 20 in their jeans and in skinny jeans even that was pushing it. However I comfortably slid into an 18 on Saturday. I decided that was worth it. That and zipping up a size 16 dress. Plus all the water I’ve been drinking has curbed my appetite TREMENDOUSLY. If I only had to offer two pieces of advice I’d say drink more water and keep filling snacks! I’ve leaned on pretzel thins, fruits, almonds and the like for my between meal snack attacks.


All that to say…I’m heading to an island that celebrates curves and I can’t wait. I read an old Fluvia Lacerda article where she talked about having 2 drawers worth of bikinis and her adamant refusal to be obsessed with what other people thought of her body. She was going to “let it all hang out under the sun without the hang-ups.” I loved that so much I made her picture my ipad desktop. Not because of her body…but because of her love of her body. Its not “not giving a Eff” its quite the opposite. Its loyalty and care to self.


I went without makeup last weekend. Something I never, no really…never do. And I had that same feeling Fulvia described; freedom, love, and sunshine. I just wanted to feel the sun on my bare skin. That was my only thought. And I didn’t want to not be able to touch my face for fear of messing it up. I just wanted to be.

I guess I say all that to say, when I head down to Jamrock I want to leave insecurity stateside. If it feels like a day for bareskin I don’t want to think twice about the decision. I refuse to obsess about bathing suits or outfits or anything of the sort. And if you know me, you know that is not me, at all. But I just want to live. Live in the moment and soak it all in as best I can. I just want to feel all I can feel without the barriers or veils of fantasy between us.

When you add it all up

Every morning I listen to music. Well, before that, I wake up and I immediately begin saying my “Thank You”s to God. At this point it is as organic as wiping my eyes or sitting up in bed. I do that until it feels right to do something else. Once I am ready to begin my morning, I do so with music. I like to move. I like to dance. And sing. I dance while I brush my teeth, I dance while I put on make-up, I sing in the shower and while I curl my hair. Every morning, there is a performance.

I am perpetually running behind in the mornings because of my performances. It is rarely because of outfit changes, but more like, I just needed to finish belting out this song before I could possibly even dream of leaving the house.

When I hear music I see colors. I always have, and I feel emotions like I am sitting in a room filled with the lyrics. When I was in high school, my mom told me I could repaint our downstairs basement. I wanted to paint it gold and write song lyrics on the walls with different walls highlighting different songs. It felt like what goes on in my head would finally be on the outside.

When I am connected to people I see colors. Sometimes with strangers too, but only if they are willing to be seen. I have chalked up the colors to be auras and while I do not always know what to “do” with the information, I have always had access to it. I will never forget meeting a client for the first time and immediately getting a sense for who they were based on what I got from them. One “scary” client felt black at first, which made me nervous but as soon as the door was closed she turned purple, and she cried for the next hour.  I learned then that sometimes people hold their breath, only they do it for their whole lives.

People listen to me. It is a curious thing that adds responsibility. I am young, and still figuring things out but two things I can say about myself that I really really like are that I am okay with making mistakes, and publicly, and I am wise enough to know that my gift has little to do with me. I found this quote last night in O magazine from Maya Angelou, she said:

I think it’s amazing what I have done. And I know it’s not my doing so I don’t have to be modest about it. Modesty is a learned affectation. It’s no good.

It made me smile. It made me want to shine brighter.

I had a friend tell me that I should start a newsletter. Send it out once a week with a thought, a reflection, something like that for people to be able to hear me. I digress, it is not about hearing me, but if I can write something that allows people to sit still and hear themselves, then I am game. I did not immediately dismiss her idea (as I would have maybe even as soon as a year ago) I knew from the discomfort growing in my belly that it was something I had to do.

Another friend sent me a link to Tracee Ellis Ross’ website. I clicked the link and ended up watching a video in which Tracee says she has learned the following three things:

  1. Your shit is your gift;
  2. The list is not the thing;
  3. Move freely.

I read it and smiled. I believe in those things. My shit…my outspoken-ness, my bigger than life personality, my ability to listen very deeply, my intuition, my curiosity, my optimism…and even the physical, my body. These things allow me to be who I am. They are the things that have become so…me. I was fretting with a dress yesterday because I had on tights and it made me nervous not to be able to tell whether my dress was down or not. I saw a classmate and she said, “Did you have a special meeting or something?” No, I told her. Just another day. “Ugh,” she continued, “Jessica you inspire me. One day I am going to do my hair and have an outfit…you always look so polished.” The moment was not lost on me. Here I was feeling like a hot mess and in the exact same moment someone saw me as polished. It goes to show that people are never as critical of you as you are of yourself. So, I told myself, you look fine, go enjoy yourself.

The list…I am a listmaker. It is so bad that I even got my college roommate to become a list maker with me. I infected her with my listing. Tracee said, “Somethings on the list are just not meant to get checked off.” Well. My mind went to running. I write about it often and I am so pulled by it but not in a big enough way to actually do it. I asked myself, “Would you be okay if you never ever became ‘a runner’?” I would be. I am sure there are other things on the list. For example, I thought in college I would be an AKA because that’s what the women in my family are and that’s what my good friends were too…then after college I worked with Deltas and I thought oooh well maybe THIS…and neither have worked out. Well, the pursuit was not the same, but either way, neither worked out. And funnily enough, I got an invitation for Delta while I was in South America in January. I remember saying to myself, maybe it’s not meant to happen. You literally could not be further away from it than the end of the earth and  yet…here we are.  And I refused, vehmently refused, to regret being where I was in favor of being somewhere else. No. I was so happy to be where I was in that moment, and I owned and cherished that. Maybe it was the “thing” maybe it was the timing. I don’t know and don’t care. The list, the things to do…they’re second ALWAYS to the experience. So the list…the list I made for myself…it’s negotiable.

Lastly, moving. We’re back to the beginning. How often do we move though? I happen to be one of those people who listens to the ears beneath my neck. I pay attention to what my body is telling me, and even if I cannot make any sense of it, I take note of it. This has been work. My current desire is to be able to speak to it with confidence. Years of learning that the head is smarter than the heart, and I’ve been actively trying to derail this myth within myself. And I want to be confident when I speak from a place of intuitive somatic knowing. I told my advisor that I wanted to make a movie about my dissertation and the process. She kinda just looked at me. But I see the end, right now. I get these ideas…these wildly creative ideas that appeal to the senses and make you emote and nothing about a dissertation matches those things. But it will. Watch. I mean I am an academic…but I am also an artist, a writer, a creative being and in this body of work that I am sure to produce, birth, and it has to resemble me. Simple as that.

So I guess the sum of it all is that. Right now, the me that I am today is pretty damn cool. The sheer amount of self-work I have put into my twenties is phenomenal and the shedding I have done of societal story telling…I asked myself why we are kept so dull? The only resolve I came to was that people didn’t know how to shine without persecution (from the masses, and from the ego.) You don’t deserve it, who do you think you are…those shine-stealing story tellers. I can recognize them for what they are now and send them grace but not devote an ounce of energy into considering their validity.

Who we are, who I am…is a work in progress. A divine being who needs sunshine, laughter, dance, song, and love. Kelly Canter said, “Don’t be afraid to fall in love, It’s the only thing that matters in life. Fall in love with as many things as possible.” I couldn’t agree more. I have fallen for words. For art. For helping people find their way to happy. And maybe one day, if I’m lucky, for a partner and for my children. It’s just as simple as that, of course in love there is great openness…great vulnerability and great risk. That’s okay though, see #1.

Likes on Facebook

I was watching Dr. Brene Brown on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday today which in and of itself was like an academic and spiritual explosion, but something in particular stuck out. Brene mentioned how we measure our self worth on menial things such as twitter followers, likes on facebook and that sort of thing. Because we’re always looking for validation in a society of uncertainty–and uncertainty is the ultimate enemy. It is not okay to not know. And so we need someone, anyone, to tell us we’re funny (enough), pretty (enough), influential (enough). Enough enough. In a culture of scarcity, we just want to feel full and we’ll take whatever we can get to fill us…


I thought about what’s ‘enough’ for me. And I drew a sketch. Ego me salivated. If I just got there then…and the mind wanders to love in Paris, kisses in rain, cherry wood offices in the perfect brick home, and my cute little puggle named Charlotte. And then the other part of me says no. Because those things are not off limits to me right now and the only reason they feel that way is because I’ve set them up to be that way.

I believe there is a point where you look at the things that happened in your past and you draw the lines connecting the past to your present. Then, you realize that those things, while they happened, they are no longer happening and while your past may have gotten you to a place but your present choices have kept you there. I’ve arrived in this place.

I wholly admit that I am not very good at gratitude for who I am. What I do for others? Yes. But simply grateful for my own talents, attributes, skills? No. Further, I have worked tremendously hard to maintain a level of distance between myself and others. I do not lean fully into joy. I do not express the depths of pain I feel. I understood the man Brene mentioned who rode the middle…never expecting good and never enjoying it when it came. This alleged “safety”, this neutrality…it is living outside the arena.

What I have decided is that I want to be in the arena. Daring greatly. It means being open to the risk of both joy and failure. It means answering to god and self. It means being clear in my values and my faith. It means showing gratitude at what is.

The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~Anaïs Nin

There was another Super Soul Sunday I saw where the metaphor of emotional anorexia was mentioned. Living off crumbs and expecting to feel satiated by it. Settling for scraps in relationships or careers because we need, so desperately, to just be full. Or rather to feel full. And some people die chasing the high that was. I don’t want to die chasing what will inevitably always remain just out of arms reach. I want to live, hands to the heavens full of grace at what I have. I am full. And its time I started living that way.

334 lbs of silent average

How do you get to be 334 lbs? That’s how much I weighed at my heaviest in 2008. I hated everything. Literally. And everyday I woke up still trapped in that body, in that life, I hated it more. I had to do everything twice as much just to feel it. Drank more, ate more, even took death just to cry. I was somewhere living under layers of disappointment and stretch-mark covered skin.

The reason I’d buried myself alive, albeit in a tomb of flesh, was because I didn’t know how to make sense of myself. I’d always felt special yet here I was feeling physically unattractive, “dumped”  by P2AD and my dad months before, in a dead end job with no reprieve in sight. Looking back I can aptly articulate that in the time of my greatest despair and turmoil, I never felt so ordinary.

I get asked a lot how or why I’m so honest on my blog. I give a varied version of the same response everytime.  But I think that it boils down to presence, engagement, and awareness. I am not solely defined by my past nor my potential. I am who I am (right now) and that’s all that I am. In having a clear idea of self, I’ve grown to better appreciate others. Of course, right?  But I could no longer look at a 300 lb woman and not want to silently pray for her to put down whatever she’s carrying and to shrug off her excess and allow herself to be seen. Easier said..but I found compassion. Patience. Empathy, all through my own engagement with life. Lastly, awarenesses.  What do you want? Why? When did you first start wanting it? I make it a priority to check in with myself. To pay attention.

So when it comes to sharing, I do it because it scares me a little. What will people say? Or do? Or think…will people comment? Will they think I’m __________? I consider it all. And then I remember fear. The all too familiar feeling of nothing special. The sinking weight of mediocrity. And I publish.  Because fear of average got my to 334lbs. Shame that I did not measure up to my own impossibly high standards I set for myself. I was never going to. I had to accept myself. I was never going to be perfect. But I did have the awesome pleasure of being myself.

It took a great deal of remembering…that I am more than a number on a scale, or in the waistband of jeans. I am not my paycheck. My degrees,  not even my family. I am bigger than all of if, and life is bigger than me. I figure when I strip down to my secrets…someone needs it. I am playing my part. I am fulfilling my purpose.

So…how do you get to 334lbs? Silence. Not saying you need help for fear of judgment, ridicule, confusion. Shame. Of being too much of all the wrong things and not enough of all the right ones. Vanilla. Passing up opportunities because you’ve convinced yourself that only the thin/beautiful/intelligent/wealthy deserve good things.

Speaking up saved my life. It gave me life. And in sifting through the 334lbs of lies and secrecy I came across truth. And love. And divinity. And while I work to transform a body built by quiet mediocrity, my true self shines extraordinary.  Sure of my strength, mostly. Willing and happy to be flawed and myself. But utterly convinced I am anything but average.